Anabel’s Grocery Attracts Thousands of Customers in First Full Semester

Student-run Anabel’s Grocery, which opened at the end of last semester after many delays and much anticipation, is finishing up its first full semester and looking back on its successes in outreach.

The grocery, a project of the Center for Transformative Action, has “somewhere in the range of 2,000 unique customers,” Johanna Baena ’18, director of public relations, told The Sun in an email interview.

After months of delays leading up to its opening, in its first semester, the store has begun to see real results for its customers, Devon Rosen ’19, programming team member, told The Sun.

“I think that we have been doing a good job of reaching out to a diverse student body,” Rosen said. “It’s really exciting to see that there are students from all sorts of backgrounds coming into the store. We’re really excited to be able to have somebody come into the store and leave happy and to actually like see the result.”

From an operational standpoint, Anabel’s has been able to find a passionate group of volunteers to lead the organization, Sophie Cheung ’18, human resources manager, told The Sun. This has allowed the store to begin “weaving [itself] into the culture of Cornell,” she said.

One challenge Anabel’s has faced over the course of the semester has been coordinating time amongst the volunteers, Cheung said. With all the “employees” of Anabel’s actually being part-time and almost entirely volunteer, Anabel’s has had trouble with coordinating schedules of students.

“With finals and papers and deadlines, you know, it’s easy to get distracted, but everyone is still part of this organization because they believe in the mission and they have the capacity for it,” she said.

Cheung said that while she did not feel there were any contentious leadership transitions over the past few months, the organization has had to formalize channels of communication and solidify the hierarchy of the leadership structure at the beginning of the semester. As the store grows, its leadership is adapting, Baena added.

As a goal for next semester and beyond, Anabel’s hopes to grow its presence on campus by continuing to learn from experience and teaching students about the store, Baena said. She expressed her desire for the store to become “a go-to campus establishment” that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

Cheung emphasized that already those impacts are becoming clear, with customers mentioning how Anabel’s has helped them save money or find easier access to healthy food.

“These reminders are, I think, just small indicators of success as we go along, and just reminders that what we’re doing is making an impact,” she said. “Just having these reminders is what makes it special for me.”

Over the semester, Anabel’s has also held a multitude of programs such as cooking classes, Rosen said. The cooking classes have had the most turnout yet, and Anabel’s has partnered with other student organizations to host them, she said.

Rosen also noted that Anabel’s plans to integrate new programs next semester, including panels about food education, food insecurity and the intersectionality between these issues and race and gender, as well as a grow-your-own garden project.

“We really want to diversify and make sure we reach like every corner of campus, because we really are an amazing resource,” Rosen said.

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